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The Collected Letters of Robert Southey Part 4: 1810-1815

2099. Robert Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, 20 May [1812] ⁠* 

May 20.

My dear Wynn

Direct this for me to Miss Southey, Bishops Hull Taunton. I send it unwafered, as there is nothing in it but what may be seen, that you may cast your eye over Mr Bells opinion. Henry Erskine was here on Sunday, – had it been his brother the Ex Chancellor, [1]  who past {made} the decree I think I should have ventured to ask him his own opinion upon it what he meant by it himself.

I x cannot recover the shock of Percevals death & the still more dreadful state of popular feeling which it has disclosed. [2]  Unless the Hunts [3]  & the Cobbetts & our other Heberts & Marats are silenced, [4]  & the gallery closed when the Burdettites are to speak, we shall have an insurrection of the poor against the rich. Nothing but the army preserves us at this moment, & how long that may be depended upon is a question which I scarcely dare ask myself.

What my opinion of Perceval has been this is not the place to say. But God in his mercy grant that xxxx we & our children may not have cause to rue his death. I consider it as the most fatal loss which could which has {ever} befallen the country.

RS.


Notes

* Address: To/ C W Williams Wynn Esqr M.P./ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: FREE/ 23 MY 23/ 1812
MS: National Library of Wales, MS 4812D
Unpublished.
Dating note: Year from postmark. BACK

[1] Thomas Erskine, 1st Baron Erskine (1750–1823; DNB). In the 1790s he had been a highly effective defence counsel for radical activists. He held office in the ‘Ministry of all the Talents’ as Lord Chancellor from February 1806–April 1807. Erskine had provided the judgement in the Court of Chancery, on 28 March 1807, in the case of Southey v. Lord Somerville. This was one of the many court cases, concerning the disposal of property at Fitzhead in Somerset, which arose from the fantastically complex will of Southey’s distant relative, Cannon Southey (d. 1768). BACK

[2] Spencer Perceval was assassinated on 11 May 1812. BACK

[3] The radical Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt (1773–1835; DNB). BACK

[4] Southey’s ‘Lives of the French Revolutionists’, Quarterly Review, 7 (June 1812), 412–438, esp. 437–438, had attacked British journalists who were, in his view, abusing the liberty of the press and thus provoking unrest amongst the poor. He had compared them to the journalists and revolutionaries Jacques Hébert (1757–1794) and Jean-Paul Marat (1743–1793), who had both met violent ends. Southey’s article had not mentioned Hunt by name, but it did draw clear parallels between revolutionary France and contemporary Britain. BACK

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Published @ RC

August 2013